OHSU researchers bring latest science linking early nutrition to later chronic disease risk
The Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness at OHSU is partnering with Uzbekistan to improve nutrition in this double landlocked former Soviet republic. Institute leaders held a conference in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, with a focus on how nutrition can serve as a foundation for a healthy nation.
The recent Global Burden of Disease study found Uzbekistan tops the list of European nations with the highest mortality from consuming an unbalanced diet. Between 1990 and 2006, Uzbekistan had more diet-related cardiovascular deaths than all of the 51 countries in the World Health Organization European Region. These deaths were attributable to diets high in sodium, low in whole-grains and high in low-fiber white flour products.
“We now know that nutrition is far more important for long-term health than previously understood,” said Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the institute. “Our research has shown that nutrition before and during pregnancy, during lactation and in the first years of life plays a significant role in establishing risk for chronic disease as adults.”
OHSU has become an international leader in this field of science known as the developmental origins of health and disease.
In 2014, the Moore Institute hosted the International Summit on the Health of Adolescent Girls and Women. Viola Artikova, a native of Uzbekistan and wife of the Moore Institute’s Director of Global Outreach, noticed Russian speaking nations were not represented. Having completed her medical training in Uzbekistan and worked closely with the country’s health department, she knew how nutrition-related disease played a large role in the poor health of her home country. She and her husband, Fred Gregory, worked with the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health and a local non-profit called For Healthy Generation to develop a conference bringing this science to Uzbekistan. The U.S. Embassy ultimately funded the conference.
The two-day conference hosted 85 attendees, with more than 600 watching remotely from 12 satellite locations across the nation. The audience consisted of physicians, health care providers and government officials. Seven OHSU representatives presented a broad overview of research within their specialties. Dr. Thornburg used his talks to draw connections between dietary changes and chronic disease risk in Uzbekistan and the U.S., highlighting that this is a global epidemic that affects us all.
Other OHSU School of Medicine speakers included Diane Stadler, R.D., Ph.D., discussing popular commercial diets, micronutrient supplements and pregnancy outcomes; Jon Purnell, M.D., discussing the global prevalence and treatment of diabetes; Laurie Armsby, M.D., discussing current surgical approaches and treatment of heart defects; Amy Valent, D.O., discussing high risk pregnancies and long-term outcomes of pregnancy conditions for the mother and baby; Lisa Rhuman discussing Moore Institute outreach initiatives; and Nabil Alkayed, M.D., Ph.D discussing biological causes and prevention of aging-related vascular cognitive impairment and dementia.
Following the conference, researchers met with the local hospital pediatric cardiology and endocrinology groups to discuss their work in further detail and to consider specific means of implementing the science into their practices.
The Moore Institute shared OHSU resources at the conference that were translated into Russian, including the “My Pregnancy Plate” guide, Dr. Thornburg’s Tedx talk on the rise of chronic disease in the U.S. and its link to generations of poor nutrition and Dr. David Barker’s book, Nutrition in the Womb.
“We hope that the people of Uzbekistan can use this science as a means to inform public health programs and policies to improve the health of their population,” Dr. Thornburg said. “We are excited to explore potential collaborations to further this work.”
Pictured above, from left to right, Jonathan Purnell, M.D., Amy Valent, D.O., Diane Stadler, Ph.D., R.D., Fred Gregory, Viola Artikova, M.D., M.S.P.H., Laurie Armsby, M.D., Lisa Rhuman, Sandrine Willaime-Morawek, Ph.D., FHEA, Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., Jeanie Thornburg, Farrah Alkayed.